Judges Rules Against Christian Posters in School

A Virginia school district didn't violate a teacher's free-speech rights by removing Christian-themed postings from his classroom walls, a federal judge has ruled.

In her ruling filed last week, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith said William Lee's posters at Tabb High School were part of his instructional tools and school curriculum and were subject to school review.

Lee, a Spanish teacher who advises the school's Christian students club, had displayed news articles about President Bush's religious faith, a National Day of Prayer flier and a depiction of George Washington praying at Valley Forge.

Officials removed the postings from Lee's classroom in 2004 after a parent complained, but they allowed some to stay, including a photo of Boy Scouts praying in memory of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Lee argued that his bulletin boards at the school in Yorktown, about 65 miles southeast of Richmond, were a limited public forum open for teachers' private expression and speech.

Smith disagreed, saying the case "is not about what free-speech rights Lee has as an individual expressing himself on private property. Rather, this case is a question about what free-speech rights Lee has as a public school teacher-employee."

York County Superintendent Steven R. Staples said the ruling reaffirmed both the school board's right to set curriculum and principals' right to guide teachers to choose classroom material that supports it.

Lee's attorney, Steve C. Taylor, didn't immediately return a call for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Rutherford Institute, the Christian-rights group that argued the case on Lee's behalf, said she wouldn't comment until the group has reviewed the ruling.